Friday, June 29, 2012

Your Weekly Fawn AND MORE Wildlife Babies!

Wildlife babies still abound.  But now they are getting bigger and venturing out on their own a bit.

In addition to the quadruplet Raccoons (Procyon lotorthat I've posted about recently, I've also gotten clips of some other little ones out and about.

The fawns, in particular, are showing up alot.

So, in an effort to keep up with what I started, here's your weekly fawn (or fawns)!

Here's another, slightly bigger fawn from a different site....

This little fella is part of a two-for-one special!

There's is boldness in numbers, and I ended up with about 20 video clips of these two....until something spooks them (check out that leap!).

Yet ANOTHER set of twins at a different site! 

The females must have had alot of resources available to them in the area this year to produce so many twins!  It's been very hot and dry out there lately, so we'll see how long these babies last....

But for now they look happy.

Plus, there are MORE!

This baby Whistlepig (Marmota monax).

A baby Stiped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis).  This little fella comes back repeatedly and I have many video clips of him (or another one that's the same age).  In every clip he is snuffling about in circles, apparently fascinated by something in front of the camera.  I never see him eating anything, so I am not sure why he keeps returning.  Whatever the reason, he always seems very serious and determined!

There's something I find incredibly endearing about skunks.  Can't place my finger on it....but whatever....the videos of this little critter always give me a chuckle.  He actually could be the ornery little stinker, I've gotten clips of in the past.....

 And finally....a first for me....a Coyote pup!  Don't see many of the pups (even though I knew the adults were on-site).  The parents must keep them well-hidden.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Momma's not sharing.....

I've posted a video clip of these quadruplets not long ago at this site (see previous clip of them here).

They are still hanging out near the camera.  You can see from these more recent clips that they have been mostly content to be together (i.e., all the little ones are following momma in a nice line wherever she goes).

But only a day or so after the clips above were taken, momma decides that she isn't in the sharing mood and her patience is running alittle thin.  I suppose having four kids will do that to a parent.  Regardless, she comes down hard on one youngster that tries to sneak in on whatever morsel she's munching (note: you may have to maximize the size of this clip and the one below it to better see what's happening).

After that reprimand, all of the little ones seem to learn that momma needs some space when eating......

General Notes On Raccoon Reproduction, Parturition and Parental Care:

Raccoons typically breed from Feburary to March.  The female will give birth several months later (60 to 73 days) and from that time on is constantly with her offspring (unlike the male, who has almost no direct contact with his progeny after they are born).  Litter sizes of 4 to 5 are common.  The female nurses for roughly 5 weeks, at which time the babies are weaned.  The female and young remain together through the fall, and sometimes during their first winter.

So, the babies above have alot of time left with their mother, but have already learned a valuable lesson!

Friday, June 22, 2012

How Does a Raccoon Scratch Its Backside?

Exactly as you'd imagine!

Actually, the individuals captured on these video clips are probably depositing scent from their glands.....

There are scents in the stakes in these video clips, which I believe are eliciting this response.

Regardless of whether they are scratching or depositing scent....seeing these clips makes me happy that I wear gloves when I change out the scents in those stakes!!

There seems to be some disagreement among raccoon authorities about whether they are primarily solitary....or whether they run in loose social groups (particularly females).  In the first video clip above, we clearly have an example of two individuals moving together.  According to Zeveloff (2002) they frequently have overlapping home ranges, so don't regularly defend territories (especially when resources are high).  Odors (like gland secretions, urine and feces) can be used to mark home range boundaries and leave information about their presence to other raccoons.  I would assume the individual above is marking his/her home range.  The second video clip could be of a different individual depositing a reply to the first raccoon that left his or her message.

Literature Cited
Zeveloff, S.I. 2002. Raccoons: a natural history. Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C..

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Field Ecology, Summer 2012: Herpetological Survey Methods

We offer a semester-long course in field methods for our Ecology majors.  They are exposed to a variety of techniques, ranging from plant identification/collection-making and tree community composition analyses, to aquatic sampling methods, to techniques for surveying vertebrates.  The summer session version of this course offers some unique opportunities for sampling amphibians and reptiles's warm out!

There is a small wetland on campus.  It's shallow and warm.  It's also incredibly productive (teeming with aquatic invertebrates, vegetation, and ampibians)....a great place for turtles.  In fact, turtles in this wetland undergo a fairly treacherous journey every spring and fall.  They leave the shallow wetland and migrate across a road to a nearby stream, where they spend the winter (a journey I've commented on before).  Once they are in the wetland, it's easy street.....assuming some annoying university professor and his students don't screw up your whole morning by setting turtle traps!

The traps we use are of a size and type that is accepted by our state regulatory agency.  These regulations vary by state (even down to a specific mesh size), so make sure you know these before throwing out turtle traps.  The traps themselves are not particularly difficult, once things have been explained a bit...

Basically, the mechanics of setting the traps is easy.  Finding the best location is one of the most challenging parts of turtle trapping.  Also, finding what type of bait works the best is very important.  I've tried alot of bait in my day (dog food, cat food, tuna, fish guts) and the best all-purpose turtle bait is a cracked tin of sardines! The brand doesn't even really matter.

Armed with their knowledge, the students plunged in to set their own traps for an overnight soak....


A commonly incorporated technique for sampling snakes involves the use of Artificial Cover Objects (ACOs).  These are essentially a board laid flat on the ground (often CXD plywood in 3 ft x 4 ft sections is ideal.  Once put into place, these boards are warmed by the sun, and also hold moisture, so that the conditions underneath become nice and warm and humid.....perfect for a thermoregulating ectotherm! In early May, the students in the summer session course measured out and deployed a 5 x 5 grid of these boards in a little prairie preserve on campus.  We let the boards age for a few weeks, which gives the snakes some time to find the boards. the late afternoon on the same day as setting the turtle traps.....we got out there as a group to check what was underneath.

We were not disappointed!  In total we caught 17 snakes in about a half an hour of checking ACOs.

Many of the little live-bearing species that are native 'round these parts will use ACOs.  For example, Brown Snakes (Storeria dekayi), Red-Bellied Snakes (Storeria occipitomaculata) are easy to capture using ACOs.  Gartersnakes (genus Thamnophis) are also commonly captured with this method.  There are several species in this genus that are native to our region, including the Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis). 
All captured snakes were then processed, which meant learning to sex snakes and learning to record some very basic morphological characters (such as snout-to-vent length, tail length, and weight).

We then let the snakes go along their merry way!

The next morning, it was time to check our turtle traps....and again....we were not disappointed!

Painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) were the order of the day!  We caught 12 total in our traps...

We then discussed methods for measuring and marking turtles.

We measured and marked all of our turtles, including a rather small Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) with attitude to burn.

These marked turtles will now be part of an ongoing long-term population monitoring project carried out by students in this little wetland.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Your Weekly Fawn Part II: 2012 Edition

I started doing this back in NC (see here, here, and here).  And since I have a fawn at one of my study sites to follow (whom I posted pictures of last week) I'll continue to give you updates as I can.

Here's what Junior looked like on 6/13/2012.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Phenology: Antlers showing on a nice buck & foraging foxes.....

This fella's going to be a beauty.  In fact, it could be one of the brutes I got pictures of from behind the house last fall (see here, and here) and I'm pretty sure it's the same fella I captured on this camera over a month ago (see here).  I guess he survived last year's hunting season (see here and  here).  Assuming this is the same seems he's back.

If I were a deer hunter, I'd be salivating..... 


On 6/12/2012 as we drove home from my daughter's swimming lesson...we saw a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes/fulva) bound across the road.  It was heading into a woodland preserve near campus and as we pulled up, the fox stopped to look at us from the roadside.  It held that spot for a good 10 seconds, not 15 yrds away and we saw it had a meal dangling from its jaws.  Appeared to be a young Whistlepig (Marmota monax). After a quick look-see, the fox turned and trotted back into the woods.  I'm assuming it had pups nearby.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Phenology: Wildlife Babies Abound

Things have been crazy as usual around here.

I've got alot of stuff to share with you all, but no time to post it!

Figured I could at least get this quickie post in, as it requires little explanation.

The babies started showing themselves for several species just in the last week 'round these parts.....

To start things off: my first camera-trapped fawn of 2012.

The momma comes forward with some trepidation.....

...but she's followed closely by junior......

At a completely different site, several species have acted like "proud parents" for the camera.

First a video clip of a Whistlepig (Marmota monax) with two youngsters close behind....  I've actually managed to get pics of baby 'pigs before, back in NC (see here).

...and just this morning.....a momma Racoon (Procyon lotor) with a group of little ones in-tow.....

More to post again soon (hopefully) soon as I catch my breath, that is!